The Khatso people, commonly known as the "Mongols in Yunnan", is a group of Mongols, mainly distributed in Tonghai County in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. The Khatso people are descendants of the Yuan army during the era of the Mongol Empire.
Before the mid-13th century, Yunnan was held by many war-like independent states such as the Nanchao and Dali Kingdoms. The Mongol Empire under Möngke Khan conquered the Dali Kingdom in 1253. Until 1273, a Chinggisid prince received the viceroyalty over the area. Kublai Khan appointed the first governor, Turkmen Sayid Ajall, in Yunnan in 1273. Yunnan and Hunan were main bases for Mongol military operations to Indo-China. It was called Yunnan district with Kunming as the headquarters during the Yuan. After the expulsion of the Mongols from China in 1368, the Ming Dynasty destroyed the Yuan loyalists in Yunnan under Basalawarmi in 1381 and occupied it. In 1381, "Ming Dynasty troops routed the Yuan army by the shore of the Baishui River. The Mongol soldiers, their hopes to return to their homeland having been dashed, had no alternative but to settle down in the province."
There are about 13,000 Khatso people, whose culture is heavily influenced by the local Yi culture. Khatso people speak the Katso language (a lingua franca of Yi language and Bai language, which is also mixed with a few Mongolian words) to communicate inside the county and use Chinese language to outsiders.
In the early 1980s, village elders sent a delegation to Inner Mongolia to re-learn about their long lost Mongolian culture. They adopted customs similar to Mongols in the north gradually, and wrestling became their favorite sport when they saw how popular it was with other Mongols.
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- John Man Kublai Khan, p.79
- John Man Kublai Khan, p.80
- Jiang Ying, Zhao Yan-zhen etc, "New Problems for Kazhuo Young People in Their Mother Tongue Acquisition", Journal of Research on Education for Ethnic Minorities, Beijing, 2008 (No.2), General No.85, Vol.19